Thursday, 17 May 2018

My Nana Always Wore A Hat - a prose poem

My Nana wore a flapper-style wedding dress and carried an enormous bouquet when she got married. She loved parties and people, tennis and matching hats. Perfect for a vicars wife.

My Nana read interesting snippets out of the paper and took up dressmaking. She scrimped on material so there was always a patch over a seam in a poignant place like centre front.

My Nana was widowed young so she took up travelling. She collected crystal handbells and souvenir matchboxes from the cities she visited around the world. She’d appear like an over adorned Christmas tree at the end of each trip, beaming as she sauntered off the plane.

My Nana wore orangey-red lipstick and grew a bristly kiss. She bought a white Mini Clubman and rode the clutch like a fury to morning teas around the village. On the days the tar melted, she’d collect us for a swim in her towelling housecoat; you could hear her roar streets away.

My Nana loved a good suntan. Her lower legs came to look like her crocodile handbag. ‘Just doing the fronts today dear,’ she’d smile from her sun lounger, while wasps nibbled plums on the grass beside her in the Hawkes Bay heat.

My Nana had terrible bunions; it was surprising her feet could get into those rows of going-out shoes. Her bedroom was a treasure trove of handbags and water-colours and clip-on earrings. Her glass topped dresser held a black and white museum of memories.

My Nana kept her hair dye in the bathroom cupboard. She used, ‘Cha Cha Gray’ and mostly left it in too long so her hair turned a flattering mauve.  

My Nana tried to discourage my love of ponies. She said girls who rode horses ended up looking like them. She had a friend who looked like her pug dog. I could see her point. She also told me I was kind and could be a nurse when I grew up.

My Nana liked sherry. When I got my licence I’d drive up from Onga Onga to visit, she’d pour me a couple in her blood red crystal glasses, as we chatted in the drawing room. I’d be shickered by the time I left.

My Nana was never a great cook. But when she started making toad in the hole from sausages peeled off the bottom of her fridge, she went into a home. She complained Mr Witherton-Jones had terrible manners when he slurped his soup beside her, and she wasn’t staying long.

My Nana used to hold parties in her room and invite her favourite nurses. She always had a cask of Blenheimer under her sink. ‘It’s so refreshing,’ she’d say.
My Nana sometimes went missing. But she always wore a hat!

Friday, 11 May 2018

Diamond Dogs (this poem contains ashes)

 "Diamond Dogs" by Jane Bloomfield

Dad’s ashes linger in the lost property box
of memories and bone fragments
a small wooden one
under the bed

An average sized man weighs: 2.72 kilograms when cremated
I googled it
Six pounds Imperial (the weight of my firstborn daughter)

Dad sometimes joked about going out in an old-pine-box
But he ended up in faux walnut veneer
Under a giddy spray of red and white roses
Addam’s Family ivy crept over its silver plastic handles

Two pm sun filtered through stained glass saints
In that tiny wooden church in Leigh and winked upon
Michael, Son of the Archdeacon of Hawkes Bay lying there

I always wondered if you get bits of coffin
with your dearly departed’s ashes?

You don’t

The materials used in those vessels to-the-other-side
are designed to be totally zapped by the heat
Cremation ovens spike to
926.666 degrees Celcius –
It’s a fucking inferno in there

But you’re still left with sticks of burnished bones
I know, I saw the photo on an undertaker’s website
It offered so much helpful information
Things you never knew you wanted to know

Like: post cremation “The bone fragments are further crushed”
Once they’ve gone through a magnetic scanner to remove metal implants
gold fillings, screws
I’d discovered modern day grave robbing
Or do they give those cadaver-jewells back?

There was an ad for Life Gem Diamonds
How much do I need? The top FAQ
“Just 200 grams of cremated remains,
to extract enough carbon to make multiple diamonds …
typically all the diamonds that a family wants.”

Marilyn M would turn in her grave

I never read the comments section
But there were so many satisfied customers
Take Jacqueline, Linda and Sam
Who in brackets
Were not wife, or partner, or husband
of Jerry, Midnight and Champ

The most popular gems, it appeared
were dead-doggy-diamonds
Diamond dogs

Dad was a cat man
A naval man
A modest man

Most family members want to scatter his ashes at sea
His partner wants to out in the glass bottomed boat

I have visions of his pebbles floating underneath us
As we glide over the reef
And hungry snapper from the nearby marine reserve
nibbling him then spitting him out
dry calcium phosphates, sodium and potassium hardly a meal

But for now
he remains


Friday, 4 May 2018

Bedtime Stories - a poem for my Dad

Bedtime Stories

I didn’t really like the books
my Dad read to me at bedtime,

those James Herriot vet stories
all hedgerows and country lanes,

but I loved the sound of his voice
like icy water over river stones

and I loved the weight of him beside me
on my bed not my sister's,

emanating warmth through those
resonating words falling from his mouth

chapter after chapter
night after night.

-I'm still not sure what makes a good poem. Just like any writing - fiction, opinion piece - there are some poems I immediately love, some I stop reading mid-sentence and others I have absolutely no idea what is going on or what as a reader I'm meant to feel (not that I would ever admit).

I wrote this poem quite a few years ago and read it aloud during the Glenn Colquhoun poetry class at Wanaka Autumn Art School 2018. BTW my favourite poem of Glenn C's is "To-the-girl-who-stood-beside-me-at-the-checkout-counter-of-Whitcoulls-bookstore-in-Hamilton-on-Tuesday" It's a truly beautiful love letter to a stranger.

Glenn's comments on my poem (or pome as he calls them), 'Bedtime Stories' were,  "I'm tearing up ... It's a spectacularly beautiful poem ... It gives you a thump in the chest ... it rings true ... it asks for help ... " He also referred to its 'poetry problems' he said that he felt the words emanating and resonating were too meaty and should be simpler. But I cannot think of another way of describing how the timbre of a man's voice reverberates through a small child when they are sitting close by. Can you? Jane x

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